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Taking Back What and From Whom?: Imagined Communities and the Role of WordPress in the Future of the Open Web

Taking Back What and From Whom?: Imagined Communities and the Role of WordPress in the Future of the Open Web

“Taking Back The Open Web” is a bold theme, but every word in that sentence requires some significant unpacking if we’re to agree on a path forward. From whom is the open web being taken back? Who took it from us in the first place? What do we mean by open, and do we really mean “web” here?

Dries’s version of the open web (to which the CFP linked) is a vaguely defined point in the recent past where “the web felt like a free space that belong to everyone.” Anil Dash’s version, which he calls “The Web We Lost” posits a time when the web was about “letting lots of people build innovative new opportunities for themselves” which has been replaced by a system which “continues to make a small number of wealthy people even more wealthy” via “narrow-minded, web-hostile products.” The call for papers for this conference, with a focus on publishers, points to “stress” caused by “proprietary formats which enforce limits and restraints.” There’s even an Open Web Foundation (founded in 2004) dedicated to “open, non-proprietary specifications for web technologies,” to which primary subscribers are Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.

Is the conflict between the open web and the (presumably) closed web which opposes it, really about formats? Is it about access and distribution? Is it about a small number of powerful corporate overlords versus inspired, creative small business entrepreneurs?

In this talk I’ll lay out a couple of different ways of thinking about the “open web” we’re after, what each of those visions postulates as the problem, and what solutions emerge from that set of problems. I’ll conclude with some of my own take on how WordPress as itself an “imagined community” (cf. Benedict Anderson’s 1983 book) can and should contribute to shaping the future of the web. (Hint: It’s about democratizing publishing through open source AND community).

John Eckman

August 08, 2018

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    THE OPEN WEB WO R D C A M P F O R P U B L I S H E R S , C H I C AG O 2 0 1 8 https://www.deviantart.com/jaysimons/art/Map-of-the-Internet-1-0-427143215 John Eckman @jeckman #wcpub
  2. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub TAKE BACK WHAT, NOW?

    https://fotogosaurus.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/take-back-vermont-roxbury.jpg http://www.nyartbeat.com/event/2015/26B5 https://vermontvolunteerism.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/from-the-trenches/ http://labprolib.com/hillary-clinton-endorsement/
  3. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub TAKE BACK WHAT, NOW?

    TAKE BACK WHAT, NOW? https://www.redbubble.com/people/politicalcircus/works/15722336-take-our-country-back-2016-donald-trump?p=sticker https://twitter.com/realjack/status/796191438694445056
  4. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub We’re looking forward to

    speaker submissions that touch on whether an open web actually ever truly existed, what state it’s in now, consequences of a closed web, and how publishers may protect and encourage an open web. https://2018-chicago.publishers.wordcamp.org/2018/04/26/your-challenge-taking-back-the-open-web/ John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  5. https://dri.es/video-can-we-save-the-open-web I'm waiting for the day when, if you tell

    someone 'I'm from the internet', instead of laughing they just ask 'oh, what part?' https://xkcd.com/256/ https://xkcd.com/802/ Best trivia I learned while working on this: 'Man, Farmville is so huge! Do you realize it's the second- biggest browser-based social- networking-centered farming game in the WORLD?' Then you wait for the listener to do a double-take. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  6. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub “The very possibility of

    imagining the nation only arose historically when, and where, three fundamental cultural conceptions . . . lost their axiomatic grip on men’s minds. The first of these was the idea that a particular script-language offered privileged access to ontological truth. . . . Second was the belief that society was naturally organized around and under high centers - monarchs who were persons apart from other human beings and who ruled by some form of cosmological (divine) dispensation. . . Third was a conception of temporality in which cosmology and history were indistinguishable.” (36)
  7. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub “My point of departure

    is that nationality . . .[and] nationalism are cultural artefacts of a particular kind.” (4) The Nation “is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear fo them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion. . . . In fact, all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even those) are imagined. Communities are to be distinguished not be their falsity / genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined” (6)
  8. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub “Consider the two forms

    of imagining which first flowered in Europe in the eighteenth century: the novel and the newspaper. . . . these forms provided the technical means for ‘re- presenting’ the kind of imagined community that is the nation.” (24-25) In other words, this is also Gutenberg’s fault.
  9. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub “In an age when

    it is so common for progressive, cosmopolitan intellectuals . . . to insist on the near- pathological character of nationalism, its roots in fear and hatred of the Other, an its affinities with racism, it is useful to remind ourselves that nations inspire love, and often profoundly self-sacrificing love.” (141)
  10. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub “. . . the

    Open Web is inclusive and encourages fair distribution of ideas with no barrier to entry. It exists in opposition to proprietary systems created by companies for the purposes of lock-in, control of user experience, or requiring payment for entry” “Do we want the experiences of the next billion web users to be defined by open values of transparency and choice, or by the siloed and opaque convenience of the walled-garden giants dominating today?” https://2018-chicago.publishers.wordcamp.org/2018/04/26/your-challenge-taking-back-the-open-web/ John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  11. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub AG E N DA

    : TA K E B AC K T H E O P E N W E B • The way the web used to be • Open source / free software • Dominant communities / walled gardens • Transparency, privacy, control • WordPress and the future of the open web http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/wooden-tile/a/agenda.html John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  12. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub THE OPEN WEB AS

    THE WEB THAT USED TO BE Photo by Felipe P. Lima Rizo on Unsplash Jeremiad: a long, mournful complaint or lamentation; a list of woes. Nostalgia: a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. https://unsplash.com/photos/UNNAYh3sMOg John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  13. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub https://dri.es/can-we-save-the-open-web https://anildash.com/2012/12/13/the_web_we_lost/ The tech

    industry and its press have treated the rise of billion-scale social networks and ubiquitous smartphone apps as an unadulterated win for regular people, a triumph of usability and empowerment. They seldom talk about what we’ve lost along the way in this transition, and I find that younger folks may not even know how the web used to be. . . . we’ve abandoned core values that used to be fundamental to the web world. . . . today’s social networks . . . haven’t shown the web itself the respect and care it deserves, as a medium which has enabled them to succeed. And they’ve now narrowed the possibilities of the web for an entire generation of users who don’t realize how much more innovative and meaningful their experience could be. https://anildash.com/2012/12/13/the_web_we_lost/ The web felt very different fifteen years ago, when I founded Drupal. Just 7 percent of the population had internet access, there were only around 20 million websites, and Google was a small, private company. Facebook, Twitter, and other household tech names were years away from being founded. In these early days, the web felt like a free space that belonged to everyone. No one company dominated as an access point or controlled what users saw. This is what I call the "open web". https://dri.es/can-we-save-the-open-web John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  14. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub T H E W

    E B T H AT WAS https://www.geekwire.com/2013/web-generation-link-unexpected/
  15. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub T H E W

    E B T H AT WAS https://www.vice.com/da/article/zn59z8/netstalgia-future-laboratory-trend-forecasting-aol-early-internet http://mitadmissions.org/blogs/entry/internet_nostalgia
  16. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub https://unsplash.com/photos/lD-xTvjCgJo Photo by j

    on Unsplash THE OPEN WEB AS FREE OPEN SOURCE Photo by Jules Marchioni on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/Os7INYFe5d8 John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  17. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub “Free software” means software

    that respects users' freedom and community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. Thus, “free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”. https://opensource.org/osd https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.en.html John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  18. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub In 1998, a part

    of the free software community splintered off and began campaigning in the name of “open source.” The term was originally proposed to avoid a possible misunderstanding of the term “free software,” but it soon became associated with philosophical views quite different from those of the free software movement. . . . Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement. For the free software movement, free software is an ethical imperative, essential respect for the users' freedom. there’s no doubt that [the decision] to use the term [open source] to label a marketing programme for free software was a crucial moment. From that point onward, people who wanted to promote software freedom in business or wanted to identify their own approach to doing business with free software had a collectively-agreed term. . . . it became easy to talk about open source projects, open source business models, the benefits of open source and so on. https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html https://opensource.org/node/942 John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  19. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub F R E E

    , L I B R E , G R AT I S , O P E N • Free as in Speech / Free as in Freedom (Libre) • Free as in Beer / Free like a puppy (Gratis) • Liberal software? Liberty software? • Open as in what? Open Standards, Open APIs, Open Admission? Photo by Brianna Santellan on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/8s06eMPtJdU
  20. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub F R E E

    D O M I N T H E AG E O F W E B A P P L I C AT I O N S • The “ASP loophole” • Is it time to be more specific about what “open” means? • Is access to source code no longer the most important prerequisite? • Do we need to expand “the four freedoms”? • How do we ensure the kinds of freedom Free Software is designed to ensure, for a user base that is primarily not source code literate? Photo by michael podger on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/jpgRztEuaV4 John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  21. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub I T ’ S

    N OT J U S T A B O U T C O D E • The real value of an open source platform isn’t just the code • The specific form of imagined community that is an open source project attracts includes not just code contributors but thought leaders, designers, end-users, and others https://required.com/en/wordpress-community-summit-2017/ John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  22. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub THE OPEN WEB AS

    WALLED GARDENS Photo by Hector Argüello Canals on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/2x6vURol6cM John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  23. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub • Open: • Closed:

    https://dri.es/video-can-we-save-the-open-web John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  24. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub https://dri.es/can-we-save-the-open-web https://anildash.com/2012/12/13/the_web_we_lost/ This isn’t

    some standard polemic about “those stupid walled- garden networks are bad!” I know that Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and LinkedIn and the rest are great sites, and they give their users a lot of value. They’re amazing achievements, from a pure software perspective. But they’re based on a few assumptions that aren’t necessarily correct. The primary fallacy that underpins many of their mistakes is that user flexibility and control necessarily lead to a user experience complexity that hurts growth. And the second, more grave fallacy, is the thinking that exerting extreme control over users is the best way to maximize the profitability and sustainability of their networks. . . . people are using free and convenient services, often without a clear understanding of how and where their data is being used. Many times, this data is shared and exchanged between services, to the point where people don't know what's safe anymore. It's an unfair trade-off. I believe that consumers should have some level of control over how their data is shared with external sites and services; in fact, they should be able to opt into nearly everything they share if they want to. . . . Imagine a way to manage how our information is used across the entire web, not just within a single platform. That sort of power in the hands of the people could help the open web gain an edge on the hyper-personalized, easy-to- use "closed" web. In order for a consumer-based, opt-in data sharing system described above to work, the entire web needs to unite around a series of common standards. . . . collaboration and open standards could be a great way to decentralize power and control on the web. https://dri.es/video-can-we-save-the-open-web https://anildash.com/2012/12/13/the_web_we_lost/ John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  25. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub “What makes something generative?

    There are five principal factors at work: (1) how extensively a system or technology leverages a set of possible tasks; (2) how well it can be adapted to a range of tasks; (3) how easily new contributors can master it; (4) how accessible it is to those ready and able to build on it; and (5) how transferable any changes are to others—including (and perhaps especially) nonexperts.” (71) https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/4455262
  26. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub “It is easy for

    Internet users to see themselves only as consumers whose participation is limited to purchasing decisions that together add up to a market force pushing one way or another. But with the right tools, users can also see themselves as participants in the shaping of generative space—as netizens. ” (71) https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/4455262
  27. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub THE OPEN WEB AS

    PRIVACY, TRANSPARENCY AND USER CHOICE Photo by andrew jay on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/OdjhBf4Ar4I John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  28. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub – J O H

    N N Y A P P L E S E E D “Type a quote here.” http://gapingvoid.com/2006/05/09/if-you-talked-to-people/
  29. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub – J O H

    N N Y A P P L E S E E D “Type a quote here.” https://www.betterads.org/ John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  30. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub THE ROLE OF WORDPRESS

    IN THE FUTURE OF THE OPEN WEB Photo by "My Life Through A Lens" on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/bq31L0jQAjU John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  31. – I M M A N U E L K

    A N T “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  32. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub FREE & OPEN SOURCE,

    IN LETTER AND IN SPIRIT https://wordpress.org/about/
  33. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub ACCESSIBILITY AS A PERVASIVE

    FEATURE https://make.wordpress.org/accessibility/
  34. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub PRIVACY, SECURITY, AND TRANSPARENCY

    Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/fPxOowbR6ls John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub
  35. John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub INCLUSIVITY AS A CORE

    PRINCIPLE Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/Ig4UvpKDyMg John Eckman • @jeckman • #wcpub